Top Rank – Haymon settle antitrust lawsuit

May 19, 2016

The parties in the Top Rank Boxing v. Al Haymon, et al. lawsuit filed in federal court in Los Angeles has been settled.  The parties filed a joint stipulation to dismiss the case on Wednesday.  Terms of the settlement are confidential per the stipulation filed with the court.

Al Haymon and his various business entities were sued by Top Rank Boxing this past July as the promoter claimed that Haymon’s upstart Premier Boxing Champions violated federal antitrust laws as well the Muhammad Ali Act and California State Business Regulations.

Top Rank amended its lawsuit on 3 separate occasions.  One of the tries resulted with Haymon securing a dismissal.  However, the court allowed Top Rank the opportunity to refile.  Which it did.

Perhaps what precipitated the beginning of the end of this litigation was securing the opportunity to obtain documents (including financial information) from promoter Lou DiBella and his company DiBella Entertainment, Inc.  It was claimed by Top Rank that DiBella was a “sham promoter” essentially working for Haymon.

Joint Stipulation Dismissing Lawsuit by JASONCRUZ206

Another theory which may have caused the two sides to settle would be the downturn of PBC.  Ratings have been sluggish and reports of PBC seeping money seems valid.  Also, investors filed a lawsuit in Kansas over a fund’s strategy to invest in PBC.  Settling this lawsuit may negate the hefty legal bills the company is racking up.

A similar lawsuit filed by Golden Boy against Haymon continues in Los Angeles with discovery ongoing.

Payout Perspective:

It will be interesting to see how much further the Golden Boy lawsuit goes.  If they are to obtain documents from other promoters (like DiBella) in discovery, it could leverage into a favorable settlement. It is unknown if PBC would run the risk of continuing with defending this lawsuit if there is the possibility of losing a huge verdict.

McGregor vs. Mayweather – could it happen?

May 15, 2016

Can Conor McGregor fight Floyd Mayweather without the UFC’s ok?  The question is almost as silly as whether Ronda Rousey should fight a man.  Despite the ridiculousness of it, we take a look.

As Bloody Elbow points out, there is a scenario in which its plausible that McGregor could find his way out of his UFC contract and meet Floyd Mayweather in a boxing match.  Of course, the scenario would take the course of a lawsuit.  And while there are those that think that’s a pretty feasible scenario, one has to look at the practical issues related to obtaining a boxing license, filing a declaratory judgment for McGregor to get out of his UFC and/or addressing a lawsuit that would inevitably be filed by the UFC for breach of contract as well as its own injunction that would prevent a fight between the two.  Then, there’s the legal reason which would stifle all notions about this from happening.  But we have about 6 graphs to go…

Clearly the boxing license issue is the least of the worries.  One would have to think this should be the easiest of tasks.  Rather than wait for a UFC lawsuit, if McGregor and Mayweather are really interested in a fight, they’d probably file a lawsuit against the UFC seeking a declaratory judgment requesting a court to allow McGregor to fight despite his contract with the company.  The court of choice would be an interesting one.

A venue in Nevada seems appropriate considering the UFC’s headquarters are in the state.  If McGregor decides to seek relief utilizing the Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act (“Ali Act”) as suggested by BE, the venue would have to be in federal court in Vegas (the same venue as the current UFC antitrust lawsuit).

So the question is whether McGregor could possibly sue under the Ali Act?  It’s likely that while the argument that McGregor (as a licensed boxer) could seek relief under the Ali Act sounds plausible, it’s unlikely that a court would grant McGregor such relief.

Definitely McGregor’s supporters would hope for a broad interpretation of Section 10 of the Ali Act which indicates it a restraint of trade for a coercive contract.  However, the coercive contract that is in question and that we try to litigate is the UFC contract, not another boxing contract.  And that is the problem.

The purpose and intent of the Ali Act is clearly for boxing.  And while there is the possibility of amending the Ali Act to include MMA incubating, the Ali Act does not cover MMA.  Any argument that an MMA contract is coercive and thus should be deemed void or voidable under the Ali Act would be dismissed.  As stated, attorneys for the UFC would simply argue that the Ali Act does not pertain to MMA and any safe harbor that McGregor might seek to find to nullify his UFC contract should be dismissed.

Payout Perspective:

Clearly, none of us think that Mayweather/McGregor is happening.  But, since I was asked about the question, I thought it would be interesting to look at it.  While the legal strategy seems sound, in the end, the practicality of a lawsuit and actually prevailing on the merits would be a longshot.  If this fight were to actually happen, one would think that the UFC would have to permit this to happen which would mean being, at least, a co-promoter in the event.  If you thought a Mayweather/Pacquiao negotiation was tough, think of what Mayweather/McGregor/UFC would be like.

But let’s be honest, the legal process would take years and years before seeing an actual fight.  I would see McGregor making amends with the UFC and continuing on as a mixed martial artists before a crossover fight ever happens.

Bellator releases Brooks, strips HW champ

May 15, 2016

Bellator announced two roster moves prior to its event Saturday.  The most notable move was outright releasing lightweight champ Will Brooks.  It also stripped its heavyweight champ Vitaly Minakov for inactivity.

The big news is that Brooks, who was 9-1 in Bellator, was shown the door and is now a free agent.  Brooks had been outspoken via social media about his stay with the company.  He was also labeled a malcontent by others which may have made the relationship hard for negotiations.  Scott Coker confirmed via MMA Junkie that it had terminated Brooks’ contract and waived all negotiations rights so that Brooks could pursue his free agency options.  One might assume that Brooks would be able to fight in another organization as soon as he could come to agreement.

“We’re not going to be in the Will Brooks business any longer,” Coker told MMA Junkie.

It appears Brooks read the quote.

Brooks told MMA Fighting that his contract expired on July 15 with one fight left on the deal.

In addition, Coker said that Minakov would be stripped of the title.  He had not defended the title since April 2014.  Coker indicated that the company would retain the former Olympian’s rights despite stripping him.

Payout Perspective:

Strong statement by Coker to release Brooks and strip Minakov.  Frankly, I do not know the backstory behind Minakov’s inability to defend the title.  But, with the recent signing of Matt Mitrione it should tell you that the company would like to bring that division back into play.  As for Brooks, it’s clear that the two sides were at an impasse.  The severing of Brooks without getting at least one more fight from him obviously means that the two sides were so far apart in negotiations, the company did not want to have Brooks possibly win his last contracted fight and then cut a promo on the company or pull a “Benson Henderson” (i.e., take off gloves and lay in the right) on television.

Rousey clears potential defamation claim from former manager

May 12, 2016

Ronda Rousey has agreed to change a portion of her autobiography to avoid a potential defamation lawsuit from former manager Darin Harvey.

Rousey’s autobiography which was released last year included a section which describes Harvey.  The former UFC women’s bantamweight champion agreed to change the section for the second release when it comes out in paperback, ebook and  audiobook.

The two parties settled their lawsuit in February.  After a California State Athletic Commission ruled in Rousey’s favor with respect that her contract with Harvey was not valid, a lawsuit filed by Harvey in Los Angeles Superior Court remained.  The court had ordered the case to go to arbitration.  Yet, this new wrinkle appears to tie up loose ends.

Or does it.  According to MMA Junkie, Havey claims that comments made by Rousey’s attorney in the LA lawsuit about the changes in the book were in violation of the confidential settlement agreement.

Payout Perspective:

Just because Rousey and her publishing company are changing a portion of the book, it does not mean that what Rousey wrote about Harvey would be defamation.  However, the prolonged litigation would have been a drag on Rousey and affect the book sales as well as a potential movie on the autobiography which is a possibility.  You might recall that Rousey recently signed a deal with the Lifetime Network.  For Harvey, it gives him piece of mind about his past business relationship.  Of course the new wrinkle is the comments made by Rousey’s attorney in the LA lawsuit.  He was not the party representing her in the potential defamation matter and Harvey’s comments make it seem like this might not be over.  Violating a confidential settlement agreement has its penalties which would be included in the agreement.  It would be hard to speculate on what the parties agreed to but they usually involve monetary penalties or a voiding of the agreement.  Of course, a party to the agreement would have to prove that the terms were violated.

Investors file lawsuit over PBC investment

May 5, 2016

Earlier this week, it was reported that a lawsuit had been filed in Kansas by two investors that claimed that it was misled about investments made by a fund which helped Premier Boxing Champions with seed money.  Despite the fact that he lawsuit filed in federal court was voluntarily dismissed and filed in state court, the lawsuit reveals information behind the funding of PBC.

Ivy Investment Management, Co. and Waddell & Reed Investment, Co. were sued by three investors in the funds which helped fund PBC in a derivative lawsuit filed earlier this year.  Ryan Caldwell, the portfolio manager, was accused of spending the money for his own intended benefit.

The federal complaint claims that the two funds spent approximately $925 million on “a start-up and potentially criminal” boxing promotion.

The plaintiffs claim that Caldwell’s actions were against the prospectuses for the Funds.

The complaint states that the investment strategy “primarily focuses on securities issued by large capitalization companies” which offered a “high probability of return or, alternatively, can provide a high degree of relative safety in uncertain times, with Strong cash flow streams and “high sustainable cash flow.”  Plaintiffs claim that PBC was a “high-risk venture” which met none of the criteria.

They also claim that as a fund manager he should have been making objective investment decisions.

The lawsuit alleges that Caldwell did not disclose an affiliation with PBC or Al Haymon which plaintiffs infer was either a potential or actual conflict of interest related to the investment strategy for the fund.

Plaintiffs also state that Caldwell resigned as the fund manager to join one of Haymon’s companies.

Courthouse News reports that the funds defend the investments and cite the fact that two similar prior lawsuits were dismissed.

Last year, the Sports Business Journal did a story on PBC which indicated that the Waddel & Reed fund was $40 billion.

Payout Perspective:

One might expect the state lawsuit to mirror the federal lawsuit.  The Complaint takes some information from the Top Rank/Golden Boy – Al Haymon lawsuit.  Notably, the three plaintiffs are not residents of Kansas.  However, Ivy Management’s principal office is in Overland Park, Kansas.  It will be an interesting lawsuit as the funds will defend its investment strategy and likely characterize the plaintiffs as disgruntled investors.  While the complaint is compelling, investor discontent happens especially when money is lost and/or the return on investment is not what was expected.  Last April, the Sports Business Journal did a story on the investment behind PBC and the fact that Caldwell had helped infuse the startup with $425 million in capital from a $40 billion fund.  The story also went on to discuss that Caldwell invested about $1.5 billion in Formula One racing out of the same fund.

MMA Payout will continue to follow.

Is “Money” coming back?

May 4, 2016

Floyd Mayweather, Jr. may be returning from his short retirement based on a couple trademarks filed late last month with the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

In an interview with Showtime this past Saturday, the 49-0 fighter maintained he is staying out of the ring but conceded he has had talks with CBS and Showtime about returning to the ring.

Perhaps evidence of his possible return was the trademark filings which relate to the fighter winning 50 fights.  “TMT 50” (“TMT” an acronym for “The Money Team”) and “TBE 50” (“The Best Ever”) were filed on April 21, 2016.  The owner/applicant of the marks is Mayweather Promotions, LLC.

Mayweather has a vast trademark portfolio to capitalize and protect his businesses.

Payout Perspective:

Is Floyd coming back?  Do the trademark filings mean anything?  Or, are they just to protect his brand and business?  Will his return matter?  All good questions for the boxing world.  But, if he were to return, it would seem that Mayweather could not just come back against anyone.  His last fight with Andre Berto did poorly on PPV and its unlikely he would come out of retirement against a viable challenger.

Slice settles with Texas Commission

May 2, 2016

MMA Junkie reports that Kimbo Slice has settled with the athletic commission in Texas after having failed a drug test.  Slice agreed to a $2,500 fine and have his license to fight in the state revoked.

As part of the settlement, Slice agreed to waive his right to a hearing.  He is expected to remain in compliance with the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation.

In addition, the fight with Dada 5000 at Bellator 149 has been ruled a no-contest.  Slice had defeated Dada 5000 by TKO in one of the highest-rated, yet one of the ugliest MMA fights put on Spike TV.

A post-fight drug test revealed that Slice had used the anabolic steroid nandrolone.  A urine test also revealed elevated T/E ratio.

Slice originally was offered a settlement of $4,000 fine and license revocation.

Notably, Bellator scheduled Slice for its July tent pole event prior to the settlement with Texas.

Payout Perspective:

The harshest outcome coming out of Slice’s settlement is the revocation of his Texas license.  Not because he will never fight in Texas, but because he may find it hard to fight in U.S. jurisdictions where commissions follow the Association of Boxing Commissions.  If Slice ever fights in the U.S., he may be subject to an athletic commission hearing prior to receiving a license to fight.  Notwithstanding this issue, Slice’s penalty seems like a slap on the wrist.

Will the Ali Act help protect MMA fighters?

May 2, 2016

With the recent news that there will be a proposed amendment to the Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act to include MMA fighters, I take a look at boxers that have tried to sue under the Ali Act over at The White Bronco.

The Ali Act which serves to protect boxers from unsavory business practices from the likes of promoters and managers has had a handful of lawsuits where a fighter has sued under the Ali Act.  By my estimation there has not been one where a boxer has prevailed.  Only in the case of Jeff Lacy (the name may sound familiar as he was the boxer Nick Diaz was allegedly going to box if his MMA career did not continue) was there a favorable finding from the court.

Andre Ward, Joseph Agbeko, Bermane Stiverne and Mikey Garcia are other fighters that have filed suit under the Ali Act but were not successful in court.  Of course, in the instances of Ward and Garcia, they were granted releases from their promoters but after extended litigation which sidelined their careers.  Stiverne was able to reconcile with his promoter, Don King.

One of the overarching themes in the litigation is the disclosure component of the Ali Act in which requires promoters to disclose its payouts to its fighters.  Most recently, Chris Algieri complained about this issue with his longtime promoter.

Payout Perspective:

It will be interesting to see what becomes of the proposed amendment and how much support it receives.  While the intent is good, the present Ali Act has its flaws which should be addressed if we are talking about amending the Ali Act.  Of course, we may see opposition to the Ali Act by those not wishing that MMA fighters are covered.

Algieri situation presents problem with Ali Act

April 14, 2016

While there are many proponents that endorse expanding the Muhammad Ali Act to include the protection of MMA fighters, the federal law has its issues.  The case of Chris Algieri provides a good example.

Algieri, the New York fighter that is best known for his upset win over Ruslan Provodnikov which scored him his big money fight against Manny Pacquiao in Macau, China is fighting this weekend as part of a PBC on NBC TV card.  But despite his main event fight against rising star Errol Spence, Jr., Algieri is at odds with his promoter over pay.

Yahoo! Sports reported back in February that Algieri did not know how much of a percentage he was actually receiving from his promoter, Joe DeGuardia of Star Boxing, because the promoter has not revealed it to him.  Although a purse amount was agreed upon by the promoter and fighter, the fighter is afforded the right to know the amount a promoter receives from the event and thus the fighter should know the percentage he receives from a fight.  In his last fight, he made 30 percent of the promoter/fighter split in December 2015 – a win against Erick Bone.  Algieri believes at this point in his career his split should be more than 50 percent of the purse.

Under the Muhammad Ali Act, specifically section 13(b), promoters must inform boxers of: (1) the amounts of any compensation or consideration that a promoter has contracted to receive from such match; (2) all fees, charges, and expenses that will be assessed by or through the promoter on the boxer pertaining to the event, including any portion of the boxer’s purse that the promoter will receive…” and (3) any reduction in a boxer’s purse contrary to a previous agreement between the promoter and the boxer or a purse bid held for the event.

Algieri admits to having problems with obtaining this information from Star Boxing.  As the Yahoo report notes, the Act is silent as to when a promoter must disclose the information.  This, puts fighters like Algieri at a disadvantage.  While the promoter might be in compliance by giving his fighter the information at the last minute, it is not within the spirit of the law which was to protect fighters from these types of abuses.  A promoter might not reveal the information to his fighter for a variety of reasons.  Namely, they are just withholding the information to prevent a fighter from threatening not to fight as a way to demand more money.  DeGuardia indicated to Newsday that he is exercising his right not to reveal the information until Friday’s weigh-ins.  His attorney claims that Algieri’s public grievance is a ploy to renegotiate.

For those wondering, according to ESPN’s Dan Rafael, Algieri will make $325,000 this weekend.

Payout Perspective:

Algieri’s situation may not be uncommon in the world of boxing.  If you recall from the Pacquiao/Algieri 24/7 lead-up to the fight, the New York native drove an old car and lived with his parents.  Despite the Pacquiao payday (Algieri made over $1M), it’s clear that Algieri is still fighting for what he believes he deserves as a fighter.  This example shows why the Ali Act, for the good that it can and should provide, there are issues with the practical implementations of the law.  If the Ali Act is to expand to MMA, there should be amendments to the Act to ensure that the purpose of the law is followed.

Former WWE wrestler sues over royalties from WWE Network

April 8, 2016

Former WWE wrestler Rene Goguen (wrestling under the name Rene Dupree) sued the WWE Wednesday in a class action lawsuit filed in Connecticut federal court.   The former WWE superstar is claiming he is owed royalties from the WWE Network and Netflix due to a clause in his contract which pre-dated the over the top platforms but stated he was entitled to royalties of “technology not yet created.”

Goguen is claiming breach of contract for failing to pay royalties, breach of fiduciary duty, unjust enrichment and violation of Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act.

Goguen believes his Booking Contract, which was attached to his Complaint, entitled him to WWE Network and Netflix licensee sales of WWE Video Products due to a vague clause which left open for him to be entitled to royalties for “technology not yet created.”  He claims he was not paid these royalties.

The WWE told the Hollywood Reporter that Goguen signed a contract in 2011 that negates his ability to bring his claims.

Payout Perspective:

In all likelihood, the WWE will attempt to dismiss this case.  If the WWE is correct, we might assume that Goguen signed an agreement that precluded him from filing this type of lawsuit as the WWE probably contemplated the clause might open itself up to royalties.  The 2011 contract referred to by the WWE likely indicated he would not be entitled to any network royalties or any from WWE content on Netflix.  The bigger issue might be how the WWE splits royalties among its current roster for the network.  When C.M. Punk left, he claimed that many wrestlers did not know how the WWE would address royalties in light of the fact that some wrestlers made points off of PPV buys.  With the almost extinction of PPV, its clear that royalties from the WWE would be big for wrestlers.  We will see how Goguen’s case is handled and whether this raises any issues for WWE contracts moving forward.

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